Sigh. My full week at Olds College for the Exercise Rider Boot Camp has come to a close. Bender has gone home to his paddock and he didn't even glance back as he trotted away to re-join his herdmates. So much for our bonding time! I finished with my Chore team at morning feed at 6 am yesterday, and I'm already feeling sentimental about 7:30 am Fitness and 9 pm Water off!
I'm happy to report that Treazure, Joan and I all passed our Horsemanship tests on Friday for instructor Mara. Instructor Nancy did an evaluation on our rides, and it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I failed my mounting during the test! I honestly thought I had it, at least I had the ideal motion in my head to Jump Balance Swing and Settle. After a week of riding in that wee saddle and a few days of Fitness my muscles knew what to do, I just lacked some of the oomph to get it done. A few more days, and I know I would pass! The consistency of instruction during the week, the security to practice correct positions on the mechanical horses and then the time allowed to put the balance, softness, and rhythm into practice in the arena with our 4 legged instructors was invaluable, and helped us all accomplish our goals (mine was to not fall off - check!!)
In our Classroom time we analyzed both horse and rider biomechanics. We spent some time on the Psoas muscle (the p is silent), which plays an important part in all posture, and is crucial to balanced riding. I'd never heard of the Psoas muscle, but by Thursday I knew exactly where it was and what it was supposed to do! We lovingly started referring to it as the Sore-as muscle (and sometimes the sore-a** muscle, truth be told!) and we all worked through various forms of the Psoas Shuffle! Riders will know exactly what that looks and feels like!
We finished up on Friday by cleaning tack, which completed our Testing day and mentally got us ready for the next ride with a clean slate. My team and I spent a lot of time together at the barn this weekend to feed, turn out, clean stalls and water off, and I think every owner should spend a full day with their groom to appreciate the hours of dedication and attention that each horse requires!
A most heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to Theresa, Olds College Continuing Education and Horse Racing Alberta for allowing me to go back in time to childhood. I received a number of encouraging messages from racing friends, family and even complete strangers (and a not so few cheeky messages from people as well!)
Shakespeare wrote “When I bestride him I soar, I am a hawk. He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.” I am a passionate fan of racing and there is nothing more beautiful than a horse in full flight, especially one who has the will to win. There is no better (nor addictive) feeling than standing in a winner’s circle beside a horse with flared nostrils, arched neck and perked ears. Except maybe, to be the person riding or driving and feeling the competitive spirit and the participating in the win.
I barely got started down the road to being an Exercise Rider, and I'm not a little envious of the 2016 students who started this morning. I have always been thankful for the people who look after my horses at the track, they have a tough job. But this week has furthered my own racetrack education and I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of our backstretch workers.